Being imperfect humans, all of us have experienced illness, some even grave illness. When we face such difficulties, how do we cope?
One valuable aid in coping is the comfort we receive from family, friends, and fellow believers.
A friend’s kind, loving words can be like a soothing balm that heals and refreshes us. (Prov. 16:24; 18:24; 25:11) But true Christians are concerned with more than just receiving comfort. They reach out “to comfort those in any sort of tribulation through the comfort with which [they themselves] are being comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:4; Luke 6:31) Antonio, a district overseer in Mexico, learned this firsthand.
When he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer of the blood, Antonio was overcome with anguish. Still, he strove to control his negative emotions. How? He would try to remember Kingdom songs and sing them so as to hear and meditate on the words. Praying out loud as well as reading the Bible also proved to be of great comfort.
Antonio now recognizes, however, that one of his biggest helps came from his fellow believers. He says: “When my wife and I felt weighed down, we would ask a relative who is a congregation elder to come over and pray with us. This comforted us and calmed us. In fact,” he adds, “thanks to the support of our family and our spiritual brothers, we were able to overcome the negative emotions in a relatively short time.” How grateful he was to have such loving and caring friends!
Another help during times of distress is the promised holy spirit. The apostle Peter said that God’s holy spirit is a “free gift.” (Acts 2:38) That certainly proved to be true with the anointing of many at Pentecost 33 C.E. But by extension, the holy spirit is a gift available to all of us. There is an endless supply of this gift, so why not ask to have it in abundance?
SHOW DEEP INTEREST IN THOSE WHO SUFFER
The apostle Paul endured much hardship, even facing death on occasion. (2 Cor. 1:8-10) Yet, Paul had no morbid fear for his life. He found comfort in knowing that he had God’s backing. He wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4) Paul did not wallow in self-pity. Rather, the trials he endured helped him to cultivate fellow feeling, so that he was better equipped to comfort others during their time of need.
After recovering from his illness, Antonio was able to return to the traveling work. He had regularly shown interest in his fellow believers, but then he and his wife made a special effort to visit and encourage sick ones. For example, after visiting one Christian who was battling a serious illness, Antonio learned that this brother did not want to go to the meetings. “It was not that he did not love Jehovah or the brothers,” explains Antonio, “but the illness had affected his emotions to such an extent that he felt useless.”
One thing that Antonio did to encourage the sick brother was ask him to offer the prayer at a recent gathering. Though the brother felt inadequate, he accepted the invitation. Antonio relates: “He gave such a beautiful prayer, and afterward, he was like another person. He felt useful again.”
Yes, to a greater or lesser extent, we all have had the experience of bearing up under some type of suffering. But as Paul said, this can equip us to comfort others during their time of need. Therefore, let us be sensitive to the suffering of fellow Christians and imitate our God, Jehovah, by being a source of comfort to others.